Baron “Scooter” Pikes – Tasered to Death
Posted by shadmia on July 22, 2008
Baron “Scooter” Pikes, 21, died horribly on Jan 17th 2008. Handcuffed in police custody and pleading for mercy he was tasered 9 times by officer Scott Nugent who is white. Pikes is Black. The incident occurred between 1:28pm and 2:07pm. The official police report of what happened in those 39 minutes is starkly refuted by eyewitnesses and physical evidence.
The Police Report:
Nugent spotted Pikes walking along the street and attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for drug possession, according to Police Chief Johnny Ray Carpenter. Pikes took off running, but another officer cornered him outside a nearby grocery store. Pikes resisted arrest and Nugent subdued him with a shock from a Taser.
Then on the way to the police station, Pikes fell ill and told the officers he suffered from asthma and was high on crack cocaine and PCP. The officers called for an ambulance, but Pikes later died at the hospital.
Six months later, the Winnfield police are standing by that story. Meanwhile, the Louisiana State Police are investigating the case, and no charges have been filed against Nugent or two other Winnfield police officers who assisted him in arresting Pikes, although the City Council did decide to fire Nugent from the force in May.
There is plenty of contradictory evidence, including officer Nugent’s own report of the incident, the autopsy results and eyewitness accounts.
An autopsy determined there were no drugs in Pikes’ system and that he did not have asthma, according to Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish coroner. After consulting about the case with Dr. Michael Baden, a nationally prominent forensic pathologist, Williams ruled last month that Pikes’ death was a homicide. On the death certificate, he listed the cause of death as “cardiac arrest following nine 50,000-volt electroshock applications from a conductive electrical weapon.”
Moreover, Pikes did not resist arrest, and he was handcuffed while lying on the ground, according to Nugent’s police report of the incident. It was only after Pikes refused Nugent’s command to stand up that the officer applied the first Taser shock in the middle of his back, Nugent wrote.
Several more Taser shocks followed quickly, Nugent stated, because Pikes kept falling down and refusing to get back up. Grocery shoppers who witnessed the incident later told Pikes’ family that he had pleaded with Nugent: “Please, you all got me. Please don’t Tase me again.”
Williams said police records showed Nugent administered nine Taser shocks to Pikes over a 14-minute period. The last two jolts, delivered as police pulled Pikes from a patrol car at the police station, elicited no physical reaction because the suspect was unconscious, Williams said.
Only after Pikes was carried into the police station and slumped into a chair did police call for an ambulance. He was pronounced dead soon afterward at the local hospital.
“God did not just call this young man home,” said Williams, who has served as parish coroner for the past 33 years. “Fourteen minutes elapsed between the first shock and the last. If somebody can tell me anything else that killed this otherwise perfectly healthy young man in 14 minutes, I’d like to know it.”
“This case may be the most unnecessary death I have ever had to investigate,” Williams said. “[Pikes] put up no fuss, no fighting, no physical aggression. The Taser was not used to take him into custody. He just didn’t respond quickly enough to the officer’s commands.”
Winn Parish District Atty. Chris Nevils says he expects to present the case to a grand jury after he receives the results of the state police investigation.
Colorful History of Winnfield:
Winnfield is just 40 miles from Jena, La. the site of the racially explosive prosecution of six black teenagers charged with beating a white youth that last year triggered one of the largest American civil rights demonstrations in decades. In a bizarre twist of fate it turns out that Baron Pikes is the first cousin of Mychal Bell, the lead defendant in the Jena 6 case.
Winnfield is also the birthplace of two of Louisiana’s most colorful and notorious governors, Huey and Earl Long.
The police chief of Winnfield committed suicide three years ago after losing a close election marred by allegations of fraud and vote-buying. Just four months later, the district attorney killed himself after allegedly skimming $200,000 from his office budget and extorting payments from criminal defendants to make their cases go away.
The current police chief is a convicted drug offender who got a pardon from Edwin Edwards, the former Louisiana governor who is serving time in federal prison for corruption convictions.
All of that tangled history is now wrapped up in the Pikes case, because Scott Nugent, the officer who Tasered him, is the well-connected son of the former police chief who killed himself and the protégé of the current chief, who hired him onto the force.
In less than two years on Winnfield’s 20-officer police force, police records show, Nugent ranked as the department’s most aggressive Taser user. Among the recipients were a 15-year-old African-American runaway who was not charged with any crime and Pikes’ father, currently serving a prison sentence for a drug offense, who was Tasered by Nugent last year, according to Kayshon Collins.
Joe Heard said his 15-year-old son was Tasered twice by Nugent last August, after Heard reported the youth as a runaway and asked the police to help find him.
“He snuck out of the house to be with a girl,” Heard said. “I asked the police to bring him home, and they did, but in pieces–he was all scraped up and bruised. They told me the next time he runs, ‘You know we’re going to shoot him.’ “
Officer Scott Nugent, 21, declined to be interviewed for this story. But his attorney, Phillip Terrell, said that Nugent “acted within the ambit of his training and Winnfield Police Department policies”, an opinion seconded by police spokesman Lt. Charles Curry.
Taser Safety Guidelines:
The official Winnfield Police Department Taser policy appears to prohibit the weapon’s use against a nonviolent suspect who has already been handcuffed:
“The Taser shall only be deployed in circumstances where it is deemed reasonably necessary to control a dangerous or violent subject,” the policy states. It also requires that a suspect who has been Tasered should immediately be checked out at a hospital, which did not happen in Pikes’ case.
Safety guidelines issued by Taser International Inc., the manufacturer of the device that is now used by more than 12,700 law enforcement and military agencies worldwide, warn officers to “minimize repeated, continuous, and/or simultaneous exposures.”
Company officials, citing dozens of medical studies, insist Tasers are safe when used properly. But few of those studies examined the effect of multiple Taser applications over a short period of time. The U.S. Department of Justice, in a study released in June, concluded that “the medical risks of repeated or continuous [Taser] exposure are unknown.”
“We want the police officer to be prosecuted for what he done,” Pikes’ stepmother, Kayshon Collins. We got the death certificate from the funeral home in June, and it said the death was a homicide.”
The Louisiana ACLU said that police officers should be handled just as other citizens.
“Police must be accountable for their actions just as others are, and if excessive police force caused Mr. Pikes’ death, the officers must be held accountable,” Marjorie Esman, executive director, said in a prepared statement. “The Louisiana State Police are reviewing this unfortunate death and, if their review indicates that Mr. Pikes died as a result of police misconduct, we expect the District Attorney to prosecute as it would any other death that occurs in Winn Parish.”
“I cannot and will not judge a case before I have all the facts,” Nevils said in a statement provided to BlackAmericaWeb.com. “But I will assure you that if any persons are found to have committed a crime, they will be prosecuted without regard to who they are. On the other hand, if no crime has been committed, I’m not going to bring charges because it might be a popular thing to do.”